Bayer to invest $10 million in Israeli ag tech fund

The international pharmaceutical giant aims to shape the future of agriculture partnering with accelerator firm

An EdenShield GateKeeper system (Courtesy)
An EdenShield GateKeeper system (Courtesy)

Israeli venture fund and tech accelerator firm Trendlines announced Tuesday that it had entered into a partnership deal to set up a new fund to support Israeli agriculture technology start-ups with a $10 million investment from pharmaceutical giant Bayer.

The five-year deal will see Bayer work with Israeli firms involved in areas like biopesticides, packaging technology, and crop and animal breeding technologies.

“Israel is a hotspot of innovation and Trendlines offers the right combination of regional know-how and technical experience to be a compelling partner for us,” said Adrian Percy, head of Research & Development at Bayer’s division Crop Science. “The agricultural market is ripe for groundbreaking innovation and Trendlines, with its focus on developing startups and new technologies beyond a one-time investment, shares our commitment to supporting productive and sustainable agriculture.”

Climate change, ever more resistant weeds and pests, and growing desertification are just some of the challenges facing agriculture today, and despite those challenges, farmers are expected to continually improve their output in order to feed a growing population. Through the Ag Innovation Fund, Trendlines and Bayer aim to identify cutting-edge solutions to these challenges and thereby help shape the future of agriculture, the companies said.

Among the companies Bayer may work with is EdenShield, a Trendlines portfolio agritech start-up that has pioneered the development of natural pesticides from plants and herbs. EdenShield has developed an array of biopesticides based on secretions from desert plants – plants that emit natural chemicals that keep pests away from them.

“The herbs that we use are endemic to the Israeli desert, and our team has discovered that the specific types of pests we are battling don’t like their odor,” according to EdenShield CEO Yaniv Kitron. “So by turning the herb into an essence that can be sprayed or otherwise applied to nets, the pests don’t even come near, preferring to find plants that don’t feature a scent they cannot tolerate.”

It’s even better than pesticide, Kitron said, because the bugs will not build up a resistance to the odor, as they would to bug spray. “Their dislike of these substances is hardwired into their DNA, so they won’t even come close enough to try and ‘learn’ to like them. Instead, they’ll just fly off elsewhere.”

Another Trendlines firm that Bayer may find interesting is DouxMatok, which has developed a technology to make sugar and other sweeteners taste sweeter – enabling producers to use less of the white stuff while retaining the sweet taste that consumers crave.

Using a proprietary fiber-based technology, DouxMatok’s technology blankets food and drink with chemically engineered sugar or polyol molecules that enhance the feeling of sweetness in a consumer’s taste receptors. DouxMatok has developed enhanced sucrose (table sugar), glucose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and sugar replacements such as maltitol, xylitol, and erythritol, and tests in the UK indicate that consumers can’t tell the difference between “real” sweeteners and the DouxMatok variety.

That fits right in with Bayer’s vision of the ag future. According to the company Bayer aims to help shape the future of the agricultural industry with innovative offerings that increase its productivity and enable the production of sufficient food, animal feed, fiber and renewable raw materials for a growing world population. The company invests heavily in research and development in areas such as improved traits, seed technology, seed breeding, agrochemicals and biologicals. Collaborating with outside partners offers insights into new areas of innovation and visibility into cutting-edge technologies, it said.

“We are thrilled at the establishment of the Fund and the future partnership with Bayer. It provides our companies with the professional and financial backing that they need for development and business growth and is another step in our ongoing work to build a burgeoning Israeli agtech ecosystem,” said Dr. Nitza Kardish, CEO of Trendlines Agtech. “The fund provides a great opportunity for Israeli agtech entrepreneurs to fund their revolutionary ideas.”

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